Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Daniel 10:3): Why no meats, wine or fragrant lotions?
A. He is fasting from the luxuries of the Persian kingdom. It is similar to the notions from chapter 1 when Daniel and his friends forsook the rich foods of Babylon because of their defiling effect.
Q. (Daniel 10:5): Do we know who the man is at the river? And, why do we often read about clothes made of linen?
A. We only know what Daniel tells us about him: he is not named (though the archangel Michael is), but is an angelic messenger of God who arrives to answer the prayers of Daniel who appears to be asking for more information on the events to come that we saw mentioned in the previous chapter.
Q. (10:12-14): Can you tell us why this segment is about angels and spirit princes? Also, I looked up archangel on Wikipedia, which opens a whole set of questions about archangels, and more interesting to me about books that are in other religions but not the Christian. As Christians, I just wonder if it’s worth our curiosity to investigate. In an “archangel” search, Wikipedia mentions the books of Tobit (Catholic), Enoch (Jewish literature), 2 Esdras (Christian/Jewish) and are there others? Why were they not considered Holy Scriptures to put in the Bible? How do experts know that God didn’t consider them divine?
A. Ho boy, you’ve opened a whole big can of worms. Let’s try to sort this all out. First, we have seen references to angels before, and the implication of this verse is that there is some sort of hierarchy to angels — and possibly demons as well — that we only have glimpses of. We aren’t really given details WITHIN SCRIPTURE about what it means to be an archangel (that should always be our starting point- ESPECIALLY since we’re dealing with beings beyond our understanding). So basically, that’s as far as we can go on that side of the discussion: archangels exist, but that’s all we know for sure. So let’s look at how we got to this point and address the materials themselves.
Let’s deal with the books you mentioned: In the canon of the Protestant Christian Bible (more on why in a sec, but bare with me), there are only two named angels: Gabriel (which means God is my strength) and Michael (Who is like God?). But in the tradition of the Jews (its non-canonical for them as well), there is an inter-testament writing called Enoch (which you caught onto) that describes SEVEN archangels (7 being our number for completion or perfection): Gabriel, Michael, Raphael (God heals), Uriel (God is my light), Raguel (Friend of God), Ramiel (Thunder of God), and Sariel (Command of God). These are powerful angelic beings that watch over Israel in the midst of the difficult persecutions that they faced between the OT and the NT (more on that later).
Enoch (or Enoch I) was a compilation work of various stories, including about angels. Jews and Christians do not generally consider it be canonical: Jews exclude it because it was not written in Hebrew (it was written in Aramaic), but the writing was extremely influential on Jewish thought in the time of Jesus and the early Church. A number of early Church fathers refer to the work in their writings (not part of the NT) and there are a few vague references to it in scripture (such as the very short letter of Jude). Because it was a part of the tradition of the early Church, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church accept it as part of what we call the Apocrypha, but it is NOT considered it be on the same level as the OT and NT. Still, they nonetheless consider it worth studying, and it is found between the Testaments in a Catholic (or Orthodox) Bible. So to Catholics and Jews, it is an influential work, but not on the same level as inspired Scripture. And before you get all over the “how do they know?” angle, that’s mostly because it really doesn’t say anything new about God: it mostly repeats and expands upon other well known stories of the OT, which is part of the reason that it doesn’t have that much influence today, even if it did back then. The men who compiled the canon put a lot of thought into which books to include and exclude, and they ALWAYS have good reasons for exclusion, so don’t lose any sleep over that.
As to the other books you mentioned, in a Catholic Bible you will ALSO find Tobit and 2 Esdras, whose content you can read about online but I won’t bother going into here to keep us on topic. So no worries about writings about archangels in OTHER religions, all the books you mentioned can be found within any Catholic Bible. (Just FYI, you can find any of the writings online through Biblegateway.com or any number of Catholic sites. They are very interesting reads.)
As to why Protestants do not include the Apocrypha, you can thank none other than Mr. Martin Luther. Luther is credited with creating the list of canonical Scriptures for his newly created Lutheran church back around 1520. The list he generated is still used by Protestants around the world today. Luther’s reasoning is that since the Jews rejected it, it probably wasn’t worth including, and anything that reeked of Catholicism at that point (the beginnings of the Reformation) had to go, so…out it went. So I think you can see that none of the source material you mentioned has even been considered part of the canon for either Jews or Christians, and even the ones who include it (Catholics and Orthodox) do so in it’s own section of the Bible.
Q. (11:2-45): This vision seems to go at quadruple speed to make an account of all the changes in power and rifts between the kings of the south and north. What do we need to take from it, if anything?
A. As I mentioned yesterday, it refers to the power struggle between two of the nations that form after Alexander the Great died and his empire was chopped up. It is the King of the North (Antiochus Epiphanes) who will desecrated the Temple in his attempt to dismantle Jewish worship and will incite the rebellion I mentioned yesterday (the Times, Time, and half Time refers to the three and a half years (2, 1, ½) of revolt before the Temple is restored. That’s the basic understanding of the reading, and when we move to the NT, we will skip over these events and move into the modern era.
Q. (12:1-4, 9): So is Revelation being described here or is it about the fall of Israel? And, why would God want Daniel to know about this, especially since it’s not happening for a while (right?) and tell him to keep it secret.
A. The angel is describing an apocalyptic event, that is, an event where the world ends. The Bible casts multiple visions for what this looks like (Jesus Himself will provide one), but this is one of the oldest, and John, who wrote Revelation, will refer back to it. As to why God told Daniel to keep it a secret, I have no good answer for that.
O. (Haggai 1): If you are wondering who Haggai was, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggai